Coping with Stress
16 January 2022 PM – Genesis 43:1-34 – Gen2022 – Scott Childs
Introduction: We live in stressful days. The Covid pandemic has caused great stress worldwide. It has made travel difficult. Some of you have lost your job because of it. Covid has claimed the lives of loved ones and friends. None of us knows what the future holds. We are also stressed by family tensions, marriage difficulties, work deadlines, school assignments, traffic jams, employer expectations, rising prices, sickness, hot weather, overdue bills, and ageing parents. Stress causes anxiety and sickness. To deal with stress, people overeat, take medication, drink alcohol, smoke, and become dysfunctional. Stress is a real problem.
Transition: This evening we are going to look at three sources of stress found in Genesis 43 and find some biblical ways to deal with stress.
One source of stress is …
1. Family Stress (v.1-14)
a. The famine stressed Jacob’s family (v.1-10)
1) The famine was sore. That means it was very severe.
a) They had eaten up all the grain they bought in Egypt.
b) Jacob told his sons to “Go again, buy us a little food” in Egypt. They were getting desperate.
2) Judah told his father that the Prime Minister strongly warned them that they would get no more grain if Benjamin were not with them (v.3-5).
a) Jacob was stressed at the thought of sending Benjamin. He asked his sons again why they told the man they had a brother (v. 6-10).
b) The brothers stressed because if Dad did not cooperate, they would go hungry.
b. Plans to return for food stressed Jacob’s family (v.11-14)
1) Jacob finally agreed to let Benjamin go (v.11).
2) He told them to take the man a present (v.12-13).
a) Notice the speciality items of their present: Best fruits in the land, a little balm [medicine], a little honey, spices, myrrh [prized as a perfume], nuts [pistachios] and almonds.
b) They took double money to replace the money that had been returned to them.
3) Jacob asked the Lord to give them mercy (v.14).
4) The decision to let Benjamin go was stressful. The parting with precious presents during a famine was stressful. Jacob’s family was going through a time of great stress!
Jacob wisely relieved his stress by giving it to the Lord (v.14). Why is it that we often find it so difficult to give our stress to the Lord? Do we lack faith? Are we too proud? Could it be that we are not walking close to the Lord? Oh, how we need to learn to trust the Lord and give him our burdens! If we know the Lord as our Saviour, he has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5). We must “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14).
A second source of stress is …
2. Social Stress (v.15-25)
a. The brothers had to face the Prime Minister
1) Remember, they were not travelling by car. They may have ridden their donkeys or walked. After days of dusty travel, they arrived and stood before Joseph (v.15).
2) When Joseph saw Benjamin, note what he told his servant: “Take these men home, slaughter an animal, make ready a meal, these men will eat with me at noon” (v.16).
3) The steward did not tell the men of Joseph’s invitation. He only told them they were to come into Joseph’s house. This shot their stress level through the roof. Look at v.18.
4) Facing fearful situations at work, at school, with neighbours, can be very stressful. This is the same word for fear that Adam had after he sinned and heard God calling him (Ge 3:10). It is the fear Sarah had when God heard her laugh at His promise (Ge 18:15). It is an awesome fear of a powerful authority.
b. The brothers tried to return the money (v.19-25)
1) They offered to repay the money, but the steward of Joseph’s house refused to take it. Read v.23.
2) Simeon was set free from prison and joined them. That must have been a slight relief to their stress.
3) The steward allowed them to wash up, and then he fed their donkeys (v.24).
4) They also prepared their present for Joseph when they heard they would eat lunch there (v.25).
a) As they awaited the Prime Minister, their stress increased. These men were farmers. They likely lived in tents. Not only were they in Joseph’s fine house, but they had a lunch appointment with him.
b) This was the most stressful business trip they had ever taken.
The brothers tried to relieve their stress by wisely returning the money they found in their sacks. The words of the steward probably calmed their nerves a bit. However, they still had no peace with God, so they had no true help for their stress. When we face social stress, our greatest help is to be sure we are right with God. (Proverbs 28:13) “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
A third source of stress is …
3. Internal Stress (v.26-34)
a. The brothers were stressed by their meeting with the Prime Minister
1) When Joseph came in, they gave him their gift (v.26).
2) They then all got on their knees and bowed their faces to the ground.
3) Joseph again began questioning them about their father (v.27-28).
b. Joseph was stressed by seeing his brother
1) He asked if the new man was their younger brother (v.29). He had only been 1-2 years old when Joseph last saw him.
2) He blessed Benjamin (v.29).
3) Then Joseph hurried to his room where he wept (v.30-31). God does not tell us that Joseph prayed while he cried, but because he was a godly man; my guess is that he did. This stressful time for Joseph was a time of excitement and uncertainty. He still did not know for sure his brothers had changed. He needed God’s wisdom and direction.
c. The brother’s stress increased to a higher level.
1) Joseph told his steward how to seat the brothers according to their ages. The men marvelled. In other words, they were stunned or shocked. This troubled their guilty souls. They still did not have a clue that Joseph was the Prime Minister.
2) When the food was served, Joseph gave five times as much food to Benjamin as to the others.
Joseph relieved his stress by crying before the Lord (v.29-31). Joseph’s stress was of a different nature. No doubt, he was happy, sad, and uncertain what to think or do all at the same time. He was beginning to see what God was doing in his life and the lives of his family members. Crying before the Lord and seeking His guidance is one of the best things we can do in times of internal stress.